ICAO must respond NOW to the DSB MH 17 Recommendations on Air Space Risks

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In response, opposing views have been quick either to attack the report based on alternate theories and claim that the Dutch were biased or, on the other end of the spectrum, to assert that the “facts found” constitute a basis for initiating a criminal action NOW.

Initial reviews of the DSB’s technical analysis tend to confirm its analyses of the cause of the crash. There will be little debate on the DSB document— except as to the weapon (and the control of that missile or airplane).

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The real purpose of any accident report is not really to find fault with any of the potential airlines/pilots/manufacturers/air traffic organizations involved. The proper perspective is to discern lessons about how can this tragedy be avoided in the future. In the below article by John Goglia, he quotes the Dutch report as follows:

“The Dutch further concluded that the current system for warning airliners of conflict zones is inadequate and ‘does not provide sufficient means to adequately assess the risks’ of overflights of those areas.  The report contains three recommendations:

→ one regards the countries where armed conflict is taking place,

→ the second concerns the manner in which countries and airliners assess the risk of overflying armed conflict and

→ the third involves the accountability of airliners that choose to fly over conflict zones.

Included in this accountability, would be public transparency so that passengers would have information on whether flight routes traverse conflict zones.”

[emphasis added]

Those are the points which MUST be addressed, immediately, by the aviation safety sector— governments, airlines and professionals. 

ICAO convened a meeting in 2014 to develop possible solutions. As a result, it issued a joint statement on what transpired:

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), jointly express their strong condemnation of the use of weapons against civil aviation….

Moving forward ICAO with support of its industry partners will:

→ Immediately establish a senior-level Task Force composed of state and industry experts to address the civil aviation and national security aspects of this challenge, in particular how information can be effectively collected and disseminated.

→ Submit the Task Force findings as urgently as possible to a Special Meeting of the ICAO Council for action.

Industry has called for ICAO to also address:

→ Fail-safe channels for essential threat information to be made available to civil aviation authorities and industry.

→ The need to incorporate into international law, through appropriate UN frameworks, measures to govern the design, manufacture and deployment of modern anti-aircraft weaponry.

ICAO is convening a High-level Safety Conference with all of its 191 Member States in February 2015.”

In April 2015, ICAO announced that it has established “launched a new website issuing warnings about risks to aircraft in conflict zones, which aims to serve as a single source for up-to-date assessments from States and relevant international organizations to reduce risks to civil aviation arising from armed conflict.” The press release indicated that its new website had a major limitation:

“Only authorized State officials will have the right to submit risk information under the procedures agreed to by the ICAO Council,” according to the press release. “In all cases, the identity of the State submitting information to the repository will be clearly indicated, and States being referenced in a risk submission will also have the opportunity to review and approve the related information prior to public posting.”

The limitation may in fact be greater than the general statement. As noted before, ICAO is an organization of sovereigns and it stretches credulity that a nation would admit that the situation within its borders REQUIRE that flights be diverted from its airspace. Such an admission would fire up a host of problems within its borders (i.e. acknowledging that rebels are such a threat) and on an international basis (i.e. accusing another country that its aggression is real).

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The fact that the Dutch Safety Board did not mention the ICAO Conflict Zone Information Repository, which is presently online, but again the warning associated with the link includes the following legal disclaimer/ reasons why you should not rely on the information:

“The purpose of this site is to compile in a centralized and recognized location certain information promulgated by States regarding risks to civil aircraft arising from conflict zones.

The act of posting information to this site does not alter, fulfil, or replace States’ reporting and notification requirements, or other similar obligations, as provided by the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, its Annexes, or any other applicable instruments of law. This site may be used in conjunction with other information sources and is not to be considered as a sole source of information for undertaking risk assessments related to conflict zones.

This site is informational in nature and its contents are made available without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. The information on this site is restricted to submissions from ICAO authorized users based on publicly available sources; however, ICAO does not warrant that the contents are accurate, valid, reliable, complete, comprehensive, correct or up-to-date, that this website will be available at any particular time or location, that any defects or errors will be corrected, or that the content is free of viruses or other harmful components.

ICAO shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, special or consequential damages (including, but not limited to, damages for loss of business profits, business interruption, or loss of programs or information) that result from the use or inability to use such site, or from the use or non-use of the information provided herein, in particular for, but not limited to, errors or omissions in the contents of the website, consequences of its use or non-use, or inaccurate transmission or misdirection.”

There are listings of areas in which threats are deemed to exist, with the France, Germany, UAE, US, UK and the Ukraine (the only nation which as reported on its own airspace):

  • Afghanistani88
  • Egypt
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • Mali
  • Pakistan
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Ukraine
  • Yemen

Most of the warnings are by a government only to its flag carriers not to fly over the defined areas. There are no indications of whether airlines of other nations observe the notices posted on the ICAO website.

The inadequacy of the ICAO website is shown by the current limited state of its information about the Russian air attacks in Syria. The Conflict Zone Information Repository does not have specifics about what airspace should be avoided. The Mirror quotes a source as follows:

“’Before reaching Syria, such missiles are necessarily crossing the airspace above [the] Caspian Sea, Iran and Iraq, below flight routes.’

No specific instructions were given to airlines however, but this could change if ‘more specific information is received’ about Russian activity in Syria.”

Mr. Putin places greater priority of his goals in Syria over the safety of international passengers or stated more bluntly, Russia 1 ICAO 0.

British Airways and Air France said, respectively, that flight plans would be adjusted “as appropriate” and that “special rules” had now been applied to flying over Iran. The uncertainty associated with the ICAO information is evidenced by this article in which Cathay Pacific indicated that it has suspended flights over this region whereas Qantas states that the risk does not justify such an action. EASA issued the following statement, according to SBS:

“’Before reaching Syria, such missiles are necessarily crossing the airspace above Caspian Sea, Iran and Iraq, below flight routes which are used by commercial transport aeroplanes,’ EASA said.

However the agency does not make any recommendation, adding that the advisory was to ‘create awareness’ for airspace users.”

It is noted that Malaysia Air has joined the list of carriers altering their flights in response to this threat. The variation in the airlines’ revision or not changing their flight patterns is a strong indication that the ICAO “solution” needs considerable refinement in order to establish the credibility which is critical to defining these risks.

The Conflict Zone Information Repository, based on its own disclaimer, is not something on which a country or carrier can rely. Institutionally, its Members have internal reasons NOT to report on problems within their borders. The ICAO 2014 meeting mentioned actions which may be needed subsequently. The MH17 report and the Syria situation should be catalysts for those next steps and probably more, NOW.

 

ARTICLE: MH17 Ukraine disaster: Dutch Safety Board blames missile

ARTICLE: Dutch Probe Concludes BUK Missile Downed Malaysian Jet, And Aviation Authorities Missed Risks

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